ʹMutual obligationʹ, the CDEP scheme, and development prospects in remote Australia

ʹMutual obligationʹ, the CDEP scheme, and development prospects in remote Australia Book Section

The Indigenous Welfare Economy and the CDEP Scheme

  • Author(s): Altman, Jon
  • Secondary Author(s): Morphy, F., Sanders, W. G.
  • Published: 2004
  • Publisher: ANU Press
  • Volume: CAEPR Monograph No. 20
  • ISBN: 1920942041

Abstract: Many observers feel that current social policy, and particularly the payment of welfare to the unemployed, needs to be fundamentally rethought. It is notable that advocates of change include both the government-appointed McClure Committee and influential Indigenous spokespersons, most notably Noel Pearson. In their publications Participation Support for a More Equitable Society (McClure 2000) and Our Right to Take Responsibility (Pearson 2000b) both these parties adopt the language of mutual obligation and, on the face of it, appear to agree with the general principle. The central tenet of mutual obligation in the context of current debates is the problem of how to shift individuals from being 'passive' welfare dependents into active engagement with the 'real' economy. The model is predicated on the forging of new partnerships between governments, business, the community, and the individual. Both the McClure Committee and Pearson recognise that many Indigenous communities face major structural and systemic barriers to full economic participation, particularly in rural and remote regions. Both only make passing reference to the CDEP scheme that was first established in 1977 as Australia's prototype mutual obligation program. While the wages component of the scheme is covered by notional welfare equivalent payments, additional amounts are also provided with which to administer the scheme and purchase capital equipment. At 1 July 2000, there were nearly 31 000 participants in the scheme across Australia. The CDEP scheme, as a model, meets many of the principles of mutual obligation as ennunciated by McClure and Pearson as well as by academics like Yeatman (1999) and Saunders (see Ch. 3, this volume). In the discussion that follows, I first define the boundaries of remote Australia, noting that about 70 per cent of the 265 CDEPs that existed at the time of the 1996 Census fall within this jurisdiction. On the basis of joint research with Matthew Gray (Altman & Gray 2000), I then provide a very brief assessment of the economic impact of the CDEP scheme in this region. McClure's and Pearson's prescriptions for facilitating Indigenous engagement with the 'real' economy are then examined and subjected to some reality checks; and finally I set out my own views on how the CDEP scheme, with modification, could be used as an institutional framework for Indigenous economic development.

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Suggested Citation
Altman, Jon, 2004, ʹMutual obligationʹ, the CDEP scheme, and development prospects in remote Australia, Volume:CAEPR Monograph No. 20, Book Section, viewed 16 July 2024, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=23777.

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